Government urged to accept airport expansion, hotel-casino, and new highway to get 2023 budget passed
ERC still needs votes from Socialists or former coalition partner Junts after deal with ECP in December
The 2023 Catalan budget could become a reality if Barcelona's airport expansion, a hotel-casino resort in southern Catalonia, and the B-40, a new highway connecting the capital's metropolitan area, are approved by the government.
These are the conditions the Socialists (PSC) and former coalition partner Junts have set to give their green light to this year's spending plan – support that the government needs, as currently they do not have a majority in parliament for the budget deal to be passed.
On Monday afternoon, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) met with unionist PSC leaders at government headquarters, as confirmed by the Catalan News Agency (ACN). Sources said that negotiations between the two parties were going "well."
But while ERC and the Socialists had already met last week, the governing party has not sat down to talk with their former coalition partner Junts since December.
Members of those two parties will meet at 5:30 pm on Tuesday after Junts' leadership urged ERC to "choose" its partner for the 2023 spending plan.
On Monday, Junts spokesperson Josep Rius said that Catalan president Pere Aragonès should decide "between leaving [the independence push] aside as PSC is offering, or approving a budget with Junts that will continue the path towards a Catalan independence push setting a fair, ambitious and impartial country."
The left-wing pro-independence party Esquerra does not seem to agree.
"If Junts wants to step aside or wants to abandon the territory once again, it will be their decision," Marta Vilalta, ERC's spokesperson, said on Monday during a press conference.
She hopes that the deal is "almost done" as there are no "issues" that could prevent an agreement "immediately."
Vilalta's are not the first comments praising the work done between PSC and ERC in the previous weeks. Just before the Three Kings Day, the two leftist parties met. The conversation went "well," and the cabinet was "optimistic," sources said.
However, at that point, the Socialists preffered not to announce any outcomes as the parties still needed to agree on some of the outstanding conditions.
"We say yes to continue negotiating, but no to green lighting the budget they offered us," Èlia Tortolero, PSC's spokesperson, said on Monday.
"Today ERC is the one that has to say yes" to the Socialists' requests. These include the Hard Rock casino resort project planned beside Port Aventura amusement park, the construction of B-40, a new road connecting Barcelona's metropolitan area, and expanding the Catalan capital's airport.
In fact, on Tuesday morning, the Socialists and the government held another meeting where the former reminded the cabinet of the importance of their requests.
"If our petitions are met, there could be a deal, but they have to be accepted," Alícia Romero, PSC spokesperson, said Tuesday.
Her party does not work with any deadline, but they believe a budget will be in place by April. "We cannot be permanently negotiating," she added.
Something which the government spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja, agrees with as "right now, it is down to one or two days," as "in benefit of the Catalan society, it is important to have a budget," she said during a press conference after the cabinet meeting.
"Negotiations cannot extend anymore, it is not the executive who is in a rush to have them in place, but the territory," she explained.
Support from anti-austerity party
The 2023 Catalan budget already has support from the anti-austerity party En Comú Podem after they reached a deal with the government on December 14.
After the agreement, however, the bill will still require further support from other parties, as ERC and ECP combined do not have a majority in the parliament.
27 parliamentary votes are still needed to see the 2023 spending plan passed. Therefore, that is why the cabinet is negotiating with PSC and Junts.
In early December, ECP's Albiach announced an initial agreement for the budget negotiations which will see certain measures extended for 2023, including the reduction in price of public transport, free transport for children under 16, and eligibility for the T-Jove card being expanded up to the age of 30.